Before you write anything, ask yourself these questions

Says George Orwell:

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:

  1. What am I trying to say?
  2. What words will express it?
  3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?
  4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

And he will probably ask himself two more:

  1. Could I put it more shortly
  2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

More here.

See also: George Orwell at Encyclopedia Britannica.

 

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Ernest Hemingway’s suggested readings

These are readings Hemingway recommended to a young person aspiring to be a writer. The whole story here.

Links for the book will take you to Project Gutenberg.

Start with the light

Doc Searls on his blog.

So where does [architect] Bill Patrick start, working unassisted by computer?

“I start with the light,” he says. “I say ‘where do we want the light?'”

We wanted our light coming from the direction of our hilltop view toward San Francisco Bay. We also wanted to enjoy that light outdoors as well as inside the house. The result is a lot of glass on every floor facing the Bay, and a deck or balcony outside every room on the Bay side the house. The roof is nearly flat, to maximize interior space within the local limits on roof height above grade, and the whole thing is not only beautiful, but unlike anything else, anywhere. It expresses Bill’s art, and it reflects our original intentions.

In other words, it’s a creation, not a replication or a variation. I also can’t imagine seeing this house as a template for anything else.

The same principle applies for any communicative act – letter, email, text, talk, presentation, etc. Start with the light; with what the purpose of the act is. And work backwards from there.

More here.

The medium is the massage: on doing the same expecting a different result

James Shelley on his blog:

Put a group of people in a room. Give them a whiteboard, pens, and markers. Ask them to develop an idea.

Put the same group of people in another room. Give them pipe cleaners, Play-Doh, a stage, a guitar, and LEGO. Ask them to develop an idea.

How different will the ideas be that emerge from the two different rooms?

In other words: How do the tools we use determine what we come up with?… or whether we engage at all.

It’s a question worth asking – in addition to location, time and venue.

Perhaps our people fail to come up with new solutions or ideas because we always ask them for those novel ideas in the same meeting, in the same place, in the same manner, and using the same tools.

More here.

p.s. The tile of the post is not a typo 🙂

On the discourse of being

Words often fail us and prove inadequate in the face of the most profound human experiences, whether tragic, ecstatic, or sublime. And yet it is in those moments, perhaps especially in those moments, that we feel the need to exist for lack of a better word, either to comfort or to share or to participate. But the medium best suited for doing so is the body, and it is the body that is, of necessity, abstracted from so much of our digital interaction with the world. With our bodies we may communicate without speaking. It is a communication by being and perhaps also doing, rather than by speaking.

Of course, embodied presence may seem, by comparison to its more disembodied counterparts, both less effectual and more fraught with risk. Embodied presence enjoys none of the amplification that technologies of communication afford. It cannot, after all, reach beyond the immediate place and time. And it is vulnerable presence. Embodied presence involves us with others, often in unmanageable, messy ways that are uncomfortable and awkward. But that awkwardness is also a measure of the power latent in embodied presence.

Embodied presence also liberates us from the need to prematurely reach for rational explanation and solutions — for an answer. If I can only speak, then the use of words will require me to search for sense. Silence can contemplate the mysterious, the absurd, and the act of grace, but words must search for reasons and fixes. This is, in its proper time, not an entirely futile endeavor; but its time is usually not in the aftermath. In the aftermath of the tragic, when silence and “being with” and touch may be the only appropriate responses, then only embodied presence will do. Its consolations are irreducible. This, I think, is part of the meaning of the Incarnation: the embrace of the fullness of our humanity.

Words and the media that convey them, of course, have their place, and they are necessary and sometimes good and beautiful besides. But words are often incomplete, insufficient. We cannot content ourselves with being the “disincarnate users” of electronic media that McLuhan worried about, nor can we allow the assumptions and priorities of disincarnate media to constrain our understanding of what it means to be human in this world.

via The Frailest Thing.

L’utilisation de l’anglais se banalise en France et dans de nombreux pays

L’utilisation de l’anglais se banalise en France et dans de nombreux pays. Ce phénomène ancien est aujourd’hui porté par la mondialisation de l’économie, dont l’anglo-américain est la langue véhiculaire. Si la classe dirigeante semble l’encourager, des résistances s’organisent. – via Le Monde diplomatique.

Il serait plus précis de parler de l’usage de certains mots en anglais; d’un lexique limité de mots empruntés du monde des affaires ou de la culture anglo-américaine. Les usagers de ce lexique ne sont pas pour autant bilingues. C’est-à-dire qu’ils ne parlent pas nécessairement la langue anglaise. Ils ne l’écrivent probablement pas non plus.

Les résistances? Elles ne sont jamais systémiques. Elles émergent davantage de valeurs partagées. Dans la cas qui nous occupent: aimer la langue, qui veut dire bien la parler et s’efforcer d’en découvrir les richesses et les contours.

On finding your voice

When I was a young man, an adolescent, and I hungered for a voice, I studied the English poets and I knew their work well, and I copied their styles, but I could not find a voice. It was only when I read, even in translation, the works of Lorca

that I understood that there was a voice. It is not that I copied his voice; I would not dare. But he gave me permission to find a voice, to locate a voice, that is to locate a self, a self that that is not fixed, a self that struggles for its own existence.

As I grew older, I understood that instructions came with this voice. What were these instructions? The instructions were never to lament casually. And if one is to express the great inevitable defeat that awaits us all, it must be done within the strict confines of dignity and beauty.

via Leonard Cohen’s Prince of Asturias Awards Speech.